[Transcriber's note: Susan Warner (1819-1885) & Anna Warner (1824-1915), Say and seal(1860), Tauchnitz edition 1860 volume 1]
SAY AND SEAL.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
"If any man make religion as twelve, and the world as thirteen, such a one hath not the spirit of a true New England man."
It is a melancholy fact, that this book is somewhat larger than the mould into which most of the fluid fiction material is poured in this degenerate age. You perceive, good reader, that it has run over—in the latest volume.
Doubtless the Procrustean critic would say, "Cut it off,"—which point we waive.
The book is really of very moderate limits—considering that two women had to have their say in it.
It is pleasant to wear a glove when one shakes hands with the Public; therefore we still use our ancestors' names instead of our own,—but it is fair to state, that in this case there are a pair of gloves!—Which is the right glove, and which the left, the Public will never know.
A word to that "dear delightful" class of readers who believe everything that is written, and do not look at the number of the last page till they come to it—nor perhaps even then. Well they and the author know, that if the heroine cries—or laughs—too much, it is nobody's fault but her own! Gently they quarrel with him for not permitting them to see every Jenny happily married and every Tom with settled good habits. Most lenient readers!—when you turn publishers, then will such books doubt less be written! Meantime, hear this.
In a shady, sunshiny town, lying within certain bounds—geographical or imaginary,—these events (really or in imagination) occurred. Precisely when, the chroniclers do not say. Scene opens with the breezes which June, and the coming of a new school teacher, naturally create. After the fashion of the place, his lodgings are arranged for him beforehand, by the School Committee. But where, or in what circumstances, the scene may close,—having told at the end of the book, we do not incline to tell at the beginning.
NEW YORK, Feb. 1, 1860.
SAY AND SEAL.
THE AUTHOR OF "WIDE WIDE WORLD,"
THE AUTHOR OF "DOLLARS AND CENTS."
IN TWO VOLUMES.
SAY AND SEAL.
The street was broad, with sidewalks, and wide grass-grown borders, and a spacious track of wheels and horses' feet in the centre. Great elms, which the early settlers planted, waved their pendant branches over the peaceful highway, and gave shelter and nest-room to numerous orioles, killdeer, and robins; putting off their yellow leaves in the autumn, and bearing their winter weight of snow, in seeming quiet assurance that spring would make amends for all. So slept the early settlers in the churchyard!
Along the street, at pleasant neighbourly intervals—not near enough to be crowded, nor far enough to be lonely—stood the houses,—comfortable, spacious, compact,—"with no nonsense about them." The Mong lay like a mere blue thread in the distance, its course often pointed out by the gaff of some little sloop that followed the bends of the river up toward Suckiaug. The low rolling shore was spotted with towns and spires: over all was spread the fairest blue sky and floating specks of white.
Not many sounds were astir,—the robins whistled, thief-like, over the cherry-trees; the killdeer, from some high twig, sent forth his sweet clear note; and now and then a pair of wheels rolled softly along the smooth road: the rush of the wind filled up the pauses. Anybody who was down by the Mong might have heard the soft roll of his blue waters,—any one by the light-house might have heard the harsher dash of the salt waves.
I might go on, and say that if anybody had been looking out of Mrs. Derrick's window he or she might have seen—what Mrs. Derrick really saw! For she was looking out of the window (or rather through the blind) at the critical moment that afternoon. It would be too much to say that she placed herself there on purpose,—let the reader suppose what he likes.
At the time, then, that the village clock was striking four, when meditative cows were examining the length of their shadows, and all the geese were setting forth for their afternoon swim, a stranger opened Mrs. Derrick's little gate and walked in. Stretching out one hand to the dog in token of good fellowship, (a classical mind might have fancied him breaking the cake by whose help Quickear got past the lions,) he went up the walk, neither fast nor slow, ascended the steps, and gave what Mrs. Derrick called "considerable of a rap" at the door. That done, he faced about and looked at the far off blue Mong.
Not more intently did he eye and read that fair river; not more swiftly did his thoughts pass from the Mong to things beyond human ken; than Mrs. Derrick eyed and read—his back, and suffered her ideas to roam into the far off regions of speculation. The light summer coat, the straw hat, were nothing uncommon; but the silk umbrella was too good for the coat—the gloves and boots altogether extravagant!
"He ain't a bit like the Pattaquasset folks, Faith," she said, in a whisper thrown over her shoulder to her daughter.
Mrs. Derrick replied by an inarticulate sound of interrogation.
"I wish you wouldn't stand just there. Do come away!"
"La, child," said Mrs. Derrick, moving back about half an inch, "he's looking off into space."
"But he'll be in.—"
"Not till somebody goes to the door," said Mrs. Derrick, "and there's not a living soul in the house but us two."
"Why didn't you say so before? Must I go, mother?"
"He didn't seem in a hurry," said her mother,—"and I wasn't. Yes, you can go if you like, child—and if you don't like, I'll go."
With a somewhat slower step than usual, with a slight hesitating touch of her hand to the smooth brown hair which lay over her temples, Miss Faith moved through the hall to the front door, gently opened it, and stood there, in the midst of the doorway, fronting the stranger. By no means an uncomely picture for the frame; for the face was good, the figure trim, and not only was the rich hair smooth, but a little white ruffle gave a dainty setting to the throat and chin which rose above it, both themselves rather on the dainty order.
I say fronting the stranger,—yet to speak truth the stranger was not fronting her. For having made one more loud appeal to the knocker, having taken off his hat, the better to feel the soft river breeze, he stood as before "looking off into space;" but with one hand resting more decidedly upon the silk umbrella.
Faith took a minute's view of decidedly pleasant outlines of shoulders and head—or what she thought such—glanced at the hand which grasped the umbrella handle,—and then lifting her own fingers to the knocker of the door, caused it gently to rise and fall.
A somewhat long breath escaped the stranger—as if the sound chimed in with his thoughts—nothing more.
Faith stood still and waited.
Perhaps that last sound of the knocker had by degrees asserted its claim to reality; perhaps impatience began to assert its claim; perhaps that long elm-tree shadow which was creeping softly on, even to his very feet, broke in upon the muser's vision. Certainly he turned with a very quick motion towards the door, and a gesture of the hand which said that this time the knocker should speak out. The door however stood open,—the knocker beyond his reach; and Miss Faith so nearly within it, that he dropped his hand even quicker than he had raised it.
"I beg your pardon!" he said, with a grave inclination of the head. "I believe I knocked."
"Yes, sir—I thought you had forgotten," said Faith; not with perfect demureness, which she would like to have achieved. "Will you please to come in?" And somewhat regardless of consequences, leaving the hall door where it stood, Faith preceded her guest along the hall and again performed for him the office of door-opener at the parlour, ushering him thus into the presence of her mother.
Mrs. Derrick was seated in the rocking-chair, at the furthest corner from the window, and perfectly engrossed with the last monthly magazine. But she came out of them all with wonderful ease and promptness, shook hands very cordially with the new comer, seated him in her corner and chair before he could make much resistance, and would also have plunged him into the magazine—but there he was firm.
"If you would only make yourself comfortable while I see where your baggage is?" said the good lady.
"But I can tell you where it is, ma'am," said he looking up at her,—"it is at the station, and will be here in half an hour."
"Well when did you have dinner?" said Mrs. Derrick, resolved upon doing something.
"Yesterday," was his quiet reply. "To-day I have been in the cars."
"O my! my!" said Mrs. Derrick,—"then of course we'll have tea at once. Faith!"
"I'm here, mother. I'll go and see to it, right away."
But in some mysterious manner the stranger reached the doorway before either of the ladies.
"Mrs. Derrick—Miss Faith—I told you that I had had no dinner, and that was true. It is also true that I am in not the least hurry for tea. Please do not have it until your usual time." And he walked back to his seat.
But after the slightest possible pause of hesitancy, Faith had disappeared. Her mother followed her.
"Child," she said, "what on earth is his name?"
"Mother! how should I know? I didn't ask him."
"But the thing is," said Mrs. Derrick, "I did know,—the Committee told me all about it. And of course he thinks I know, and I don't—no more than I do my great-grandmother's name, which I never did remember yet."
"Mother—shall I go and ask him?—or wait till after supper?"
"O you sha'n't go," said her mother. "Wait till after supper and we'll send Cindy. He won't care about his name till he gets his tea, I'll warrant. But what made you so long getting the door open, child? Does it stick?"
"Why," said Faith, baring her arms and entering upon sundry quick movements about the room, "it was open and he didn't know it."
"Didn't know it!" said Mrs. Derrick,—"my! I hope he ain't short-sighted. Now Faith, I'm not going to have you burn your face for all the school teachers in Connecticut. Keep away, child, I'll put on the kettle myself. Cindy must have found her beau again—it's as tiresome as tiresome can be."
"It's just as well, mother; I'd rather do it myself. Now you go in and find what his name is, and I'll have everything together directly. The oven's hot now."
"I'll go in presently," said Mrs. Derrick; "but as to asking him what his name is—la, child, I'd just as soon ask him where he came from." And in deep thought on the subject, Mrs. Derrick stepped briskly about the kitchen.
"Faith," she said, "where shall I ask him to sit?"
"Will you pour out tea—or shall I, mother?"
"What's that to do?"
"Why I was thinking—but it don't matter where you put him. There's four sides to the table."
"Don't talk of my putting him anywhere, child—I'm as afraid of him as can be." And Mrs. Derrick went back to see how time went with her guest.
It went fast or slow, I suppose, after all, somewhat according to the state of his appetite. One hour and ten minutes certainly had slipped away—if he was hungry he knew that another ten minutes was following in train—when at length the parlour door opened again and Faith stood there, with a white apron on and cheeks a good deal heightened in colour since the date of their last appearance.
"Mother, tea's ready. Cindy hasn't got back." And having made this gentle announcement, Faith disappeared again, leaving it to her mother to shew the way to the supper-room.
This was back of the parlour and communicated with the kitchen, from which Faith came in as they entered, bearing a plate of white biscuits, smoking hot, in her hand. The floor was painted with thick yellow paint, smooth and shining; plenty of windows let in plenty of light and the sweet evening air; the table stood covered with a clean brownish table-cloth,—but what a supper covered that! Rosy slices of boiled ham, snowy rounds of 'milk emptyings', bread, strawberries, pot-cheeses, pickles, fried potatoes, and Faith's white cakes, with tea and coffee!
Now as Faith had laid the clean napkin for the stranger at the foot of the table, opposite her mother, it cannot be thought presumption in him that he at once took his seat there; thus relieving Mrs. Derrick's mind of an immense responsibility. Yet something in his manner then made her pause and look at him, though she did not expect to see him bow his head and ask for a blessing on the meal before them. If that was presumption, neither of his hearers felt it so,—the little flush on the mother's cheek told rather of emotion, of some old memory now quickened into life. Her voice even trembled a little as she said,—
"Will you have tea or coffee, sir?"
And Faith offered her biscuit.
"Or there's bread, if you like it better, sir."
"The biscuits are best," said her mother,—"Faith's biscuits are always good."
And he took a biscuit, while a very slight unbending of the lines of his face said that the excellence of Faith's handiwork was at least not always so apparent.
"Miss Faith, what shall I give you in return that is beyond your reach and (comparatively) within mine?"
Possibly—possibly, the slight grave opening of two rather dark eyes confessed that in her apprehension the store thus designated, from which he might give her, was very large indeed. But if that was so, her lips came short of the truth, for she answered,—
"I don't want anything, thank you."
"Not even butter?"—with his hand on the knife.
Faith seemed inclined not to want butter, but finally submitted and held out her plate. Whereupon, having helped her and himself, the stranger diverged a little, with the rather startling question,
"What sort of a Flora have you in this neighbourhood?"
"There isn't any, mother?" said Faith, with a doubtful appeal towards the tea-tray.
A pleasant look fell upon her while her look went away—a look which said he would like to tell her all about the matter, then and there; but merely taking another of the white biscuits, he went on to ask whether the roads were good and the views fine.
"The roads are first-rate," said Mrs. Derrick. "I don't know much of views myself, but Faith thinks they're wonderful."
"I don't suppose they are wonderful," said Faith; "but it is pretty up the Mong, and I am sure, mother, it's pretty down on the shore towards the sunsetting."
"And how is it towards the sunrising?"
"I never saw it—we never go down there then," Faith said, with a very frank smile.
"Faith always stays by me," said Mrs. Derrick; "if I can t go, she won't. And of course I never can at that time of day. It's quite a way down to the shore."
"It's the sea-shore—that is, not the real sea-shore—it's only the Sound," said Faith; "but there is the salt-water, and it is as good as the sea."
"How far off?" said the stranger, bestowing upon Faith a saucer of strawberries.
Faith would have asked him to help himself, but taking notice mentally that he was extremely likely to do so, she contented herself with replying, "It's about two miles."
"And what are some of the 'good' things there?"
"Perhaps you wouldn't think it much," said Faith modestly;—"but the water is pretty, and I like to see the ships and vessels on it going up and down; and the points of the shore and the wet stones look such beautiful colours when the sun is near set."
"I like stones—whether wet or dry," said her questioner.
"Most people here don't like them," said Faith. "But there are plenty down by the sea-shore.—And plenty on the farm too," she added.
"Ah, people like and dislike things for very different reasons, Miss Faith," he answered; "so perhaps your neighbours and I are not so far apart in our opinions as you may think. Only I believe, that while there is 'a time to cast away stones,' there is also 'a time to gather stones together'—and therein perhaps they would not agree with me."
Faith looked up, and her lips parted—and if the thought had been spoken which parted them, it would probably have been a confession that she did not understand, or a request for more light. But if her face did not say it for her she did not say it for herself.
If anybody could have seen Mrs. Derrick's face while these little sentences went back and forth, he would have acknowledged it was worth the sight. Her awe and admiration of every word uttered by the stranger—the intense interest with which she waited for every word spoken by Faith—the slight look of anxiety changing to one of perfect satisfaction,—was pretty to see.
"Faith," she said when tea was over, and her guest had walked to the front door to take another look at 'space,' "Faith, don't you think he liked his supper?"
"I should think he would—after having no dinner," said Faith.
"But it was such a mercy, child, that you hadn't gone out to supper anywhere—I can't think what I should have done. There's Cindy this minute!—run and tell her to go right away and find out what his name is—tell her I want to know,—you can put it in good words."
"Mother!—I'd rather ask him myself."
But that did not suit Mrs. Derrick's ideas of propriety. And stepping out into the kitchen she despatched Cindy on her errand. Cindy presently came back from the front door, and went into the dining-room, but not finding Mrs. Derrick she handed a card to Faith.
"It's easy done," said Cindy. "I just asked him if he'd any objections towards tellin' his name—and he kinder opened his eyes at me and said no. Then I said, says I, Mis' Derrick do know, and she'd like ter. 'Miss Derrick!' says he—and he took out his pencil and writ that. But I'd like to know what he cleans his pencil with," said Cindy in conclusion, "for I'm free to confess I never see brass shine so in my born days."
Faith took the card and read,—
JOHN ENDECOTT LINDEN.
She looked a little curiously at the pencilling, at the formation of the capitals and of the small letters; then laid it down and gave her attention to the dishes of the supper-table.
The next day was Saturday. The morning opened with grey clouds, covering the sky, but which were light and light-broken and promised to roll away entirely as soon as the sun should reach a commanding position in the heavens. The sun however was still quite distant from such a position, in fact was not much more than an hour high, when Lucinda, who was sweeping the front door steps, was hailed from the front door by a person not one of the party of the preceding evening, and very unlike either of them. It was a lady, not young, of somewhat small figure, trim, and nicely dressed. Indeed she was rather handsomely dressed and in somewhat French taste; she had showy gold earrings in her ears, and a head much more in the mode than either Mrs. Derrick's or her daughter's. The face of this lady was plain, decidedly; but redeemed by a look of sense and shrewdness altogether unmixed with ill nature. The voice spoke alert and pleasantly.
"So Lucindy, you had company last night, didn't you?"
"May be we did and may be we didn't," said Lucindy, brushing away with great energy at an imaginary bit of lint at the end of the upper step. "I do' know but we'd just as good call him one of the family."
"So much at home already? I missed seeing him last night—I couldn't get home. What's he like, Cindy? and what has he done?"
"Done?" said Cindy—"well he's went out a'most afore I was up. And as to like, Miss Dilly—just you look at him when he comes in. He looks some like folks, and yet he don't, neither."
"He's out, is he?"
"Yes," said Cindy, reducing a large family of spiders to temporary starvation and despair,—"he's out—if he ain't gone in nowheres. Miss Dilly, if you'll stand just inside the door I can wash the steps just as well.
"What's the gentleman out so early for? Maybe he's missed some of his luggage, Cindy."
"Hope he ha'n't got no more—without its lighter," said Cindy. "However, he carried it upstairs himself, I'm free to confess. I guess 'twarn't for luggage he went out, 'cause he asked about breakfast time, special."
"If he means to be out till then he'll have a good walk of it."
It wanted five minutes of breakfast time, and Mrs. Derrick—what with stepping into the kitchen to oversee Cindy, and stepping to the front window to oversee the street—was warm enough for a cooler morning.
"Faith," she said, referring as usual to her daughter, "Faith—what shall we do if he don't come?"
"I guess he'll come, mother;—he knows the time. The things won't hurt much by waiting a little."
As she spoke, the little front gate swung softly to, and the person in question came leisurely up the steps and into the hall. Then having just glanced into the parlour, he at once—with a promptitude which bespoke him too punctual himself to doubt the punctuality of others—advanced to the dining-room door and walked in.
Mrs. Derrick's face shewed gratification mingled with her good nature. Faith smiled; and Miss Dilly was duly introduced as Miss Delia Danforth, Mrs. Derrick's aunt, then on a visit at Pattaquasset.
"You've taken an early stroll this morning, sir," said this last lady. "View the country?"
"No," said Mr. Linden, "I have been viewing the town."
"Ah! Well I call that viewing the country. Town and country, all's one here; and it makes a very pleasant sort of place. But what do you call the town, sir?—Do you drink coffee?"
"The town," said Mr. Linden, in answer to the first question—receiving his coffee-cup from Mrs. Derrick by way of answer to the second,—"means in this instance, Miss Danforth, that spot of country which is most thickly settled. Yes, ma'am—I drink coffee."
"Very bad for you, sir; don't you know it?"
"Bad for me as one of the human race? or as an individual specially marked out not to drink it?"
"Dear me!" said Miss Danforth sipping her own tea—"I don't know what you are 'marked out' for. I think it's a mistake for everybody to think he is 'marked' for something special—they set the mark themselves, and generally it don't fit."
"But the fact that a man often gets the wrong mark, by no means proves that there is no right one which belongs to him," said Mr. Linden, looking gravely at Faith as if he meant she should smile.
Faith seemed to look at the question however rather seriously, for dropping her knife and fork she asked,
"How shall a man know his mark?"
"By earnest consideration and prayer," he answered, really grave this time. "I know of no other way, Miss Faith."
What a remark that was! it silenced the whole table. Knives and forks and spoons had it alone, with only words of necessity; till Faith asked Mr. Linden if he would not have another cup of coffee.
"Certainly!" he said handing her his cup. "There is so much to be said on both sides of that little bit of china—I must not be partial in my attention."
"But you can't study both sides of a subject at once," said the coffee-hater.
"Then take them alternately—and (figuratively) walk round your coffee-cup, surveying its fair proportions from different points of view. If the coffee is strong and you are nervous—that's one thing. Again, if the coffee be weak and you be phlegmatic—that's another."
"The coffee's not strong to-day," said Mrs. Derrick with a regretful shake of the head.
"Nor am I phlegmatic,"—with the slightest possible indication of a smile.
"Do you think," said Miss Danforth, "a man is better able to decide questions of common judgment for having studied a great deal?—learned a great many things, I mean."
"That depends very much upon what effect his studies have had upon his judgment. Mrs. Derrick—are you trying to break me off from coffee by degrees? this cup has no sugar in it."
"O my!" said Mrs. Derrick, colouring up in the greatest confusion. "I do beg your pardon, sir! Faith, take the sugar-bowl, child, and pick out some large lumps."
"You will get more praise from Miss Danforth than blame from me, ma'am," said Mr. Linden, submitting his cup to Faith's amendment and watching the operation.
"I don't know," said Miss Danforth goodhumouredly. "Maybe he can stand it.—If he takes two cups I should say he can. How do you like the profession of teaching, sir?"
Now to say truth, Mr. Linden did not know—not by actual practice, but it was also a truth which he did not feel bound to disclose. He therefore stirred his coffee with a good deal of deliberation, and even tasted it, before he replied,
"What would you say to me, Miss Danforth, if I professed to be fond of teaching some people some things? Miss Faith, that last lump of sugar was potent."
"What sort of people, and what sort of things, for instance?" said the lady.
"The things I know best, and the people who think they know least—for instance," he replied.
"I should say you know definitions," was Miss Danforth's again goodhumoured rejoinder.
"What did you say was the matter with the sugar, sir?" said Faith.
"I said it was potent, Miss Faith,—or I might have said, powerful. But indeed it was not the sugar's fault—the difficulty was, there was not enough coffee to counterbalance it."
"I put in too much!" said Faith, making a regretful translation of this polite speech.
"Yes"—said Mr. Linden with great solemnity as he set down the empty cup,—"but too much sugar is at least not a common misfortune. With what appreciation I shall look back to this, some day when I have not enough! What did you think of the sunrise this morning?"
"Do you mean, because the sky was covered with clouds?" said Faith. "But there was enough—the sun looked through; and the colours were beautiful. Did you see them?"
"I wonder when you did, child?" said Miss Danforth;—"up to your elbows in butter!"
"Yes, I saw them. Then you are true to your name, Miss Faith, and find 'enough' in a cloudy sky?—Pray, Miss Danforth, what depth of butter does a churning yield in this region?"
"I guess," said Miss Danforth laughing, "you never saw much of farmer's work—did you?"
"Is butter-making farmer's work?" said Mr. Linden with a face of grave inquiry.
"Here's the trustys"—said Cindy opening the door; "at least that's what they said they be, but I'm free to confess 'tain't nobody but Squire Deacon and Parson Somers."
"Do they want me?" said Mr. Linden looking round.
"I guess likely"—said Cindy. "The Squire does come here to see Miss Faith, but I guess 'tain't her he wants this time."
And Cindy vanished.
"What do the trustees want?" said Miss Danforth.
"Upon the testimony of Cinderella, they want me," said Mr. Linden. "Miss Faith, may I have a glass of water?—What they want to do with me, Miss Danforth, is a little uncertain."
"Well," said Miss Danforth, "I think you'll be able to prevent them!"
He rose to take the glass from Faith's hand, and then merely inquiring whether the ladies were coming to second him, left the room.
Parson Somers was a young-looking, good-looking, affable gentleman, who pressed the ladies' hands very cordially and was very happy to see them. Squire Deacon was younger, and likewise good looking, but affability he had never been charged with. Over the handsome cut of face, the strong well-built figure, he wore a manner as rough as a bear's great-coat; only at some times and for some people the roughness was brushed down. It never would stay, any more than the various elegant phrases with which Deacon sometimes seasoned his speech, would take root there and spread.
"Quite an agreeable variation," said Mr. Somers,—"ha—in such a place as Pattaquasset—to have a new arrival among us. Mr. Linden—I hope you will like our little town. You have a pleasant experience of us to begin with."
"Yes but, Parson, don't make him think we're all like some," said Squire Deacon,—and as he turned towards Faith the beaming of his face seemed almost reflected in his brass buttons. "Dreadful gloomy morning, Miss Faith!"
"Mr. Linden has probably seen too much of the world," said Mr. Somers,—"not to know that—ha!—too great a preponderance of good is not to be looked for."
"May as well look for as much as you can find," said Miss Danforth. "A good deal's lost by not looking for it."
"Ah," said the Squire, with another glance at Faith, "it's not so hard to find things, neither, Miss Danforth. You remember Sinbad the sailor lookin' down into the vale of diamonds?"
"Don't remember him a bit. What did he see there?"
"Nothin' but diamond jewellery," said Squire Deacon in a sentimental tone. "Miss Faith, you doubtless recollect the tale?"
"I hope," said Mr. Somers,—"ha!—friend Deacon—you don't mean that Mr. Linden should look for a valley of diamonds in Pattaquasset?"
"Whereabouts does the valley lie, sir?" said Mr. Linden.
But the Squire, as if a new idea had struck him, replied somewhat brusquely,
"It don't lie nowheres, sir, nowheres but in fancy's field."
"I suppose," said Mr. Somers smiling blandly, "Mr. Linden's peculiar course of business don't lead him much into that field."
"You can strike into it 'most anywhere," said Miss Danforth. "Mr. Linden's an early man—he'll find the valley of diamonds, if it's in the town."
"Miss Faith told me there were stones enough here," he said, "but she did not hint that any of them were precious."
"We shall expect," said Mr. Somers, "to see some of our stones—I mean, some of our hard heads and thick heads—grow precious, or—a—improve!—under Mr. Linden's management."
"Pray sir," said Squire Deacon, suddenly recollecting that he was a 'trusty,' "what do you consider the best plan for the instruction of youth? what is your method?"
Mr. Linden looked contemplatively out of the window.
"I think sir, if the boys are very rough I should first teach them manners. If they are smoother boys, I should teach them spelling,—if they have already learned spelling, I should let them read."
The Squire bowed.
"Quite satisfactory, sir. Mr. Somers—I think perhaps Mr. Linden would like to visit our little temple of litteratur."
"I should be very gratified to accompany Mr. Linden in viewing so much of Pattaquasset. I trust, Mr. Linden, that the highest—ha—the moral and religious teaching, of the youth here, will not be quite overlooked in your system."
The reply that first rose to Mr. Linden's lips came not forth. He checked himself—rather perhaps in deference to the subject than anything else, and simply answered,
"I trust not, sir."
And with many low bows from the Squire, the two gentlemen went into the hall, Mr. Linden following. But he came back the next moment to ask the dinner hour.
"We are as apt to have it at noon as any time," said Faith. "Will that do, Mr. Linden? we could have it later."
"That will do perfectly. Only if the 'temple of literature' opens and swallows me up, Miss Faith, don't wait—that's all."
And with a smile that was a strong contrast to the face he had bestowed upon the trustees, he went after them.
Monday morning came, with its hands full of work. They were willing hands that were outstretched to receive the load,—strong hands too, and skilful; but it may be, better suited to other work. Certainly as the days passed Endecott's gravity took a deeper tinge, and his words became fewer. Still maintaining his morning walk, and a like tasting of the air at night,—ever punctual at meals, and when there displaying an unruffled equanimity and cheerfulness,—the even tones of his voice shewed sometimes a little weariness, and his step grew more thoughtful. And so the week rolled on, and the afternoon sun of Friday began to near the horizon.
It was a warm afternoon, soft and balmy; a little haze on the sky, the least veil upon the Mong's further shore; the summer roses hanging their heads, heavy with sleep and sweetness. The honeysuckles on the porch grew sweeter and sweeter as the sun went down, and the humming-birds dipped into those long flagons, or poised them selves in mid-air for a survey.
In the porch sat the three ladies. Each had been busy, and now each laid down her work, obedient to unseen influences. The warm breeze was softly rubbing Faith's cheek with its rouging fingers, and her mother gazed—nor could give one look to humming-birds or roses.
Her thoughts however, took greater range—or the low chiming of the village clock sent them off; for she presently said,
"Faith, my dear, what have we got for tea?"—that meal being under Faith's special superintendence.
"Very good blackberries, mother, and beautiful raspberries; and I cut my cream-cheese; and Cindy is ready to bake the bannocks. Butter's as sweet as it can be, this churning. Will that do?—Mr. Linden likes raspberries and cream," she added a little lower.
Mrs. Derrick gave a comprehensive "Yes, child," to both parts of Faith's reply, and then stopped and looked away up the street. For down the street at that moment came Mr. Linden, walking leisurely, his head bent towards one of his older scholars who had both hands clasped round his arm. The boy's upraised eager face shewed even at a distance how earnestly he was talking.
"There he comes!" said Miss Danforth.
"Who is that with him?" said Faith.
"Reuben Taylor, child," her mother answered.
Then as they came near the gate, and stopped and shook hands, Reuben cried out (in answer to words which they did not hear)
"Let me go! do, please, Mr. Linden!"—and went; while his teacher opened the gate, picked one of the drooping roses, came up the steps and taking off his hat bowed to the assembled ladies.
"Well, Mr. Linden," said Miss Danforth, "how do you find the Pattaquasset diamonds?"
"I find, madam, that they shine—as is the custom of diamonds."
"Are you going to let Reuben Taylor go?"
"Whither?" said Mr. Linden.
"Why, where he asked you. Is he one of Mr. Somers' precious stones?"
"He has gone," was the smiling reply. "Precious?—yes,—everybody is precious in one sense."
"You haven't been to college for nothing," said Miss Danforth, who would talk about anything. "I should like you to find out in what sense I am precious. I've a good many friends—but there isn't one of 'em that wouldn't eat and drink just as well with me out of the world as in it."
He smiled a little—though rather soberly, and stood watching the changing colours of clouds and sky for a minute or two without speaking. Then, half to himself as it were, low but very distinctly, he repeated—
"'And they shall be mine, saith the Lord, in the day when I make up my jewels.'"
The answer to this was only in pantomime, but striking. Miss Danforth did not speak, and instead thereof turned her head over her shoulder and looked away steadily over the meadows which stretched north of the house into the distance. Faith's eyes fell to the floor and the lids drooped over them; and as plain a veil of shadow fell upon her face. Mrs. Derrick's eyes went from one to the other with a look which was not unwonted with her, and a little sigh which said she thought everybody was good but herself.
"Bain't ye never comin' in to supper?" said Cindy, framing herself in the doorway. "I want to get out after supper, Miss Faith," she said dropping her voice,—"I do, real bad."
"Is all ready, Cindy?"
"Yes marm," said Cindy. "I'm free to confess there's a pile o' cakes baked."
"Miss Faith, when do you mean to shew me the shore?" said Mr. Linden turning round.
"You have been so busy all the week," said Faith,—"and then you didn't speak of it, Mr. Linden—I can go any time."
"My dear," said Mrs. Derrick, "there comes Squire Deacon. Maybe he'll stay to supper. I'll go and put on another cup."
Mr. Linden gave one glance at the opening gate, and followed Mrs. Derrick into the house.
"Miss Faith," said the Squire, "do you think the night dews conducive to—to your comfort?"
"When they are falling," said Faith abstractedly. "Why not, Mr. Deacon?"
"To be sure!" said the Squire gallantly,—"honeysuckles and such things do. But what I mean is this. Cilly's goin' to get up a great shore party to-morrow, and she says she couldn't touch a mouthful down there if you didn't go. And like enough some other folks couldn't neither."
"Mother's gone in to tea. Will you come in and ask her, Squire?"
"Couldn't stay, Miss Faith—Cilly's lookin' out for me now. But you can tell—your mother'll go if you do,—or you can go if she don't, you and Miss Danforth. It's good for you now, Miss Faith,—the saline breezes are so very—different," said the Squire.
"When are you going, Mr. Deacon?"
"Soon as we can tackle up after dinner, Cilly thought. But fix your own time, Miss Faith—I'll call for you any hour of the twenty-six."
Faith hesitated, and pulled a leaf or two from the honeysuckle; then she spoke boldly.
"But you forget we have a gentleman here, Squire;—we can't go without Mr. Linden."
"I don't want his help to drive my horse," said the Squire, with a little change of tone,—"but whoever hinders his going, I don't. The shore's wide, Miss Faith,—it don't matter how many gets onto it. There's no chance but he'll go if you ask him. Who wouldn't!" said the Squire, relapsing into his former self.
"We'll come down then some time in the course of the afternoon," said Faith, "and see what you are doing."
"Then I sha'n't drive you down, sha'n't I?" said Squire Deacon. "Never mind—it's no matter,—come when you like, Miss Faith, we'll be glad to see you, anyhow." And the Squire closed the little gate after him energetically.
"Cinderella is in despair, Miss Faith," said Mr. Linden as Faith entered the dining-room. "Miss Danforth—how could you keep Squire Deacon so long, and then send him home to supper!"
"It's all your fault, sir," said Miss Danforth cheerfully. "And I guess the Squire has got his supper."
"He must be a man of quick despatch," said Mr. Linden; while Faith after a glance to see if her bannocks were right, made her announcement.
"Mother, there's a shore party to-morrow."
"Who's going, child?"
"Squire Deacon and Cecilia—and I don't know who else—and he came to ask us. Will you go and take tea with us at the shore, Mr. Linden?"
"Does that mean that my tea is to be transported to the shore, and that I am to go there to find it, Miss Faith?"
"You have a very puzzling way of putting things," said Faith laughing, though her look bore out her words. "I don't think it means that. Your tea won't be there before you are, Mr. Linden. Wouldn't you like to go?"
"The Squire says there is room enough on the shore," suggested Miss Danforth. "I suppose he wants a good deal for himself, or he wouldn't have thought of it."
"Perhaps he thinks I want a good deal," said Mr. Linden. "Well—in consideration of the width of the shore, I think I will go. Is not that your advice, Miss Faith? What are the pros and cons,—if you were to state them fairly?"
"Well," said Faith, "you will have a pleasant ride, or walk, down—whichever you like;—I think it is very pleasant. You can go in the water, if you like, which everybody does; there's a beautiful shore; and I suppose that would be pleasant. You'll see all that is pretty about the place while the people are digging clams and preparing supper; and then you'll have supper; and then we shall come home; and I think it is all pleasant, except that there will be too many people. I like it best with just a few."
"As if we were to go down there to-night in the moonlight.—Now Miss Faith—what is the other side?"
"Just that—the too many people. There isn't a chance to enjoy anything quietly. I can enjoy the people too, sometimes, but not the other things at the same time so well. Perhaps you can, Mr. Linden."
"I can sometimes enjoy the other things at the same time—better."
Faith again looked a little puzzled, but answered with a simple
"Then I dare say you will like it."
"What I am puzzled about," said he smiling, "is, how you are to shew me the shore. Miss Danforth—why is that bread-plate so attractive to me, while I am like the reverse end of the magnet to it?"
"But my dear," said Mrs. Derrick, for the bread-plate was suggestive,—"ain't you going along with the Squire's party?"
"I said we would come after, mother."
"The Squire only said there was room on the shore," added Miss Danforth.
"Is the shore wide enough for us to drive down there? or must we walk?" asked Mr. Linden.
"But you'll eat supper with them, of course," said Mrs. Derrick.
"Of course, mother. The wagon must go, Mr. Linden. There's room enough for anything."
Mr. Linden made no comment upon that, and finished his tea in comparative silence. Then went forth, as was his custom, to the post-office, and—as was not his custom—returned very soon. Mrs. Derrick and Miss Danforth had gone out to see a neighbour, and Faith sat alone in the twilight parlour. It was very twilight there, but he walked in and stood waiting for his eyes to discover what there might be.
"There is nobody here but me, Mr. Linden," said a very soft and clear voice. "Do you want anything?"
"I wanted to see you—and am foiled by the darkness. Are you tired, Miss Faith?"
"Never. I wasn't sitting in the dark for that."
"Would you object to coming into the light?"
"Not at all," said Faith laughing. "Which way?"
"There is to be a fine illumination to-night, which I should like to have you see."
"An illumination! Where is it? Shall I want my bonnet?"
"You will be better illuminated without it,—but you may perhaps take cold."
"How do you make your scholars understand you?" said Faith. "I am sure I must need illuminating.—So much, that I had better leave my bonnet, Mr. Linden?"
"I think you may—if you will take some light substitute. Why my scholars are my scholars, Miss Faith."
"What then?" said Faith stopping short.
"Why then I am their teacher."
"I half wish I was a scholar too," said Faith with a tone which filled up the other 'half'—"I don't know much, Mr. Linden."
"About illuminations? I will promise you some light upon that point."
With which encouragement, Faith fetched the scarf which was to do duty for a bonnet if desired, and they set out.
"Now Miss Faith," said her companion as he closed the gate, "if you will shew me the road, I will shew you the shore.—Which will not at all interfere with your shewing it to me to-morrow."
"The shore!" said Faith. "To-night? Are you in earnest?"
"Very much in earnest. You prefer some other road?"
"No indeed—it's beautiful, and I like it very much. Cindy," she said to that damsel whom they opportunely passed at the entrance of the lane—"you tell my mother I am gone to take a walk." And so they passed on.
The way was down a lane breaking from the high road of the village, just by Mrs. Derrick's house. It was a quiet country lane; passing between fields of grass or grain, with few trees near at hand. Here and there a house, small and unnotable like the trees. Over all the country the moon, near full though not high, threw a gentle light; revealing to the fancy a less picturesque landscape than the sun would have shewn; for there were no strong lines or points to be made more striking by her partial touches, and its greatest beauty lay in the details which she could not light up. The soft and rich colours of grain and grass, the waving tints of broken ground and hillside, were lost now; the flowers in the hedges had shrunk into obscurity; the thrifty and well-to-do order of every field and haystack, could hardly be noted even by one who knew it was there. Only the white soft glimmer on a wide pleasant land; the faint lighting of one side of trees and fences, the broader salutation to a house-front, and the deeper shadow which sometimes told of a piece of woodland or a slight hilly elevation.
Then all that was passed; and the road descended a little steep to where it crossed, by a wooden bridge, a small stream or bed of a creek. Here the moon, now getting up in the sky, did greater execution; the little winding piece of water glittered in silver patches, and its sedgy borders were softly touched out; with the darker outlines of two or three fishing-boats.
And so on, towards the shore. Now the salt smell met and mingled with the perfume of woods and flowers, and the road grew more and more sandy. But still the fields waved with Indian-corn, were sweet with hay, or furrowed with potatoes. Then the outlines of sundry frame bathing-houses appeared in the distance, and near them the road came to an end.
The shore was improved by the moonlight,—its great rocks, slippery with sea-weed, glittered with a wet sheen. The Sound wore its diamonds royally, and each tiny wave broke in a jewelled light upon the sand. Far in the distance the dim shore of Long Island lay like a black line upon the water; and sloops and schooners sailed softly on their course, or tacked across the rippling waves, a fleet of "Black spirits and white."
"What do you think of the illumination, Miss Faith?" said her companion, when they had sat still for five minutes.
"What do you think of it, I think I should say. Mr. Linden, I have shewed you the shore!"
"Were you ever here before by moonlight?"
"I don't know—No, I think not. Were you ever here before at all?"
"Is it owing to you that I am here now?"
"You couldn't have got here without me," said Faith, stooping to turn over some of the glittering pebbles at her feet;—"and I couldn't have got here without you. I am willing to allow that we are square, Mr. Linden. I must!—for you will turn a corner faster than I can catch you."
"If you really suppose that first proposition to be true," said Mr. Linden raising his eyebrows, "why of course there is no more to be said. Miss Faith, how would you like to be sailing about in one of those phantom ships?"
"I should like it very well," said Faith, "in a good time. I went to Pequot in one once. It was very pleasant. Why do you call them phantoms?"
"Look at that one standing off across the moonlight towards the other shore,—gliding along so silently with her black sails all set,—does she look real?—You cannot even hear the creaking of a rope."
Faith looked, and drew an interrupted deep breath. She had lived in a world of realities. Perhaps this was the first 'phantom' that had ever suggested itself—or been suggested—to her imagination. Possibly something of the same thought crossed her mind; for she drew her breath again a little short as she spoke.
"Yes!—it's beautiful!—But I live in such a different world, Mr. Linden,—I never thought of such a thing before."
He smiled—pleasantly and thoughtfully. "How came you to see the sunrise colours the other day, Miss Faith?"
"O I see them always. And that puts me in mind of something I have been wanting to say to you every day all the week! and I could never find a chance. You asked me that morning, Mr. Linden, if I was true to my name, finding enough in a cloudy sky. What did you mean? What did you mean by being true to my name'?"
"I shall have to use your name a little freely, to tell you," he said. "It is faith's privilege to be independent of circumstances. Faith always finds something wherein to rejoice. If the sky be clear,
'Far into distant worlds she pries, And brings eternal glories near.'
If cloudy, faith uses her glass as a prism, and in one little ray of light finds all the colours of the rainbow."
"I don't know what a prism is," said Faith somewhat sadly.
"A prism, in strictness, is a piece of glass cut in a particular way, so that the colourless sunbeams which pass through it are divided into their many-coloured members. But other things act as prisms,—the rain-drops in a shower—the lustres upon your church chandelier. You have seen the colours there?"
"Well, how do they do that?"
"I must take some other time to tell you,—it would be too long a matter to-night. And I doubt whether you ought to sit here any longer."
"But this Faith don't do as you say," she said, as she slowly and rather unwillingly rose from her seat. "And I don't understand how any faith can."
"This Faith must study the Bible then, and do what that says." The tone was encouraging though the voice was grave.
He was not answered; and the homeward walk was begun. But Faith stopped and turned again to look before she had gone three paces.
"I am in no hurry," Mr. Linden said,—"take your own time—only do not take cold."
Faith turned away silently again, and began trudging along the sandy road which led back to the lane. The moonlight shewed the way better now. Passing on, as they neared home one house after another shewed its glimmer of light and gave forth its cheerful sound of voices. From one, however, the sound was not cheerful. It was Squire Deacon's.
"Well, you'll see to-morrow, Cilly—if the sky don't fall,—you'll see. Folks thinks the water down to the shore's mighty deep—'way over their heads—till they've made its acquaintance; and then they find out they can wade round in it 'most anywheres."—
"What's the matter with the Squire?" said Faith with a slight laugh, as these strange statements reached her ears.
"I should think—to use his own phraseology—he must be 'over his head' somewhere," replied Mr. Linden.
Whereat Faith's laugh deepened, but the low sweet tone of it only sounded an instant.
"My dear!" said Mrs. Derrick, running out as they entered the gate, "ain't you very imprudent? Wasn't she very imprudent, Mr. Linden?"
"Very prudent, ma'am, for she wore a shawl."
"And didn't want that, mother," said Faith.
The illumination lasted through the night—until
"Night's candles were burnt out, and jocund day Stood tip-toe on the misty mountain tops."
Very jocund she looked, with her light pink veils wreathing about the horizon, and the dancing white clouds which hurried up as the sun rose, driven by a fresh wind. Mr. Linden declared, when he came in to breakfast, that the day promised to equal the preceding night.
"And whoever wants more," he added, "must wait; for I think it will not surpass it."
With which, Mr. Linden stirred his coffee, and told Miss Danforth with a little look of defiance, "it was particularly good—she had better try a cup."
Miss Danforth instituted a fierce inquiry as to the direction of the preceding evening's walk; to which Faith gave an unsatisfactory answer.
"Did you ever look at coffee in connexion with the fatigues of life?" pursued Mr. Linden.
"I shall, probably, in future," said Miss Danforth. "Now Mr. Linden, I ask you; you're a nice man to give a straight answer;—where did you and Faith go?"
"I am glad I am a nice man," said Mr. Linden, "but I can scarce give a straight answer to that question."
"Why not, for pity's sake?"
"It must needs travel a crooked road."
"It has left a meandering sort of recollection in my mind."
"Where did it lead to?"
"It led to another."
"What I want to know is," said Miss Danforth, "where did you find yourselves when you were furthest from home."
"Let me shew you," said he. "Suppose your plate to be a rock, and this tumbler of radishes a tree, and the table-cloth grass,—the moon over your head, crickets under your feet. Miss Faith walks round the rock, I follow her,—and we both follow the road. On the way, the still night air is enlivened with owls, grasshoppers, family secrets. Our attention is thus divided between the moon and sublunary affairs. Miss Faith—what shall I give you?"
Miss Danforth's curiosity seemed for once willing to be satisfied with fun; and Faith's hunger was in the same predicament.
"But child," said Mrs. Derrick, who had bent her attention upon the diagram at the other end of the table, "I don't recollect any such place!"
"Mother!" said Faith,—and her gravity gave way hopelessly.
"Squire Deacon sends his best compliments of the season," said Cindy opening the door a while later, "and he says they'll be to take supper precisely at four. I'm free to confess he don't look much sweeter than common," added Cindy.
"Pray Miss Faith," said Mr. Linden as they left the table, "what is the precise depth of water down at the shore?"
Faith had very near broke down again, for she laughed and blushed, a good deal more than her wont; and at last replied that "it depended on how far people went in—she never went very far herself."
"I was naturally curious," said he.
After a dinner somewhat more hasty than usual, Mr. Linden and two of the ladies set off for the shore. The blackberry jam, or some other hindering cause, kept Mrs. Derrick at home.
The country by daylight looked rich and smooth. At not a very great distance a slight hilly elevation bounded the horizon line, which nearer seen would have been found bristling with stern grey rock, itself a ridge of rock, one of the ribs of the rigid soil. But where the lane led down to the water, fair fields and crops extended on every side, spotted very picturesquely with clumps of woodland. All looked genial in the summer light. If the distant rocks spoke a stubborn soil, the fine growth between said that man had overcome it; and the fine order everywhere apparent said too that the victory had been effectual for man's comfort and prosperity. The stone walls, in some places thin and open, told of times when they had been hurriedly put up; moss on the rail fences said the rails had been long doing duty; within them no fields failed of their crops, and no crops wanted hoeing or weeding. No straw lay scattered about the ricks; no barrack roofs were tumbling down; no gate-posts stood sideways; no barnyards shewed rickety outhouses or desolate mangers. No cattle were poor, and seemingly, no people. It was a pretty ride the party had, in the little wagon, behind an old horse that knew every inch of the way and trotted on as if he were a part of it.
"How do you like Pattaquasset, Mr. Linden?" said Faith, leaning forward to reach him where he sat alone on the front seat.
"I like it—well," he answered a little musingly.
They came to the bridge and stream; and now they could see that Awasee River did not fill its sometime channel, but flowed in a bottom of alluvial soil, rich in bright-coloured marsh grass, which stretched up the country between two of those clumps of woodland they had seen from a distance. A little further on, just where the sandy road branched off to the shore, there stood a farm house, with a conglomerate of barns and outhouses, all painted to match, in bright yellow picked out with red.
"Do you see that settlement of farm-houses?" said Faith, leaning forward again,—"of all sizes, in uniform?"
"Is it the fashion here to put 'earmarks' on buildings?" he answered with a smile.
"Mr. Linden! You should ask Mr. Simlins that. I see his wagon there—he'll be down at the shore very likely. He's a character. He lives a mile and a half further on, just where the road turns off to Mrs. Somers'."
"Simlins!" was the only reply.
"He's a good sort of man, but he's funny."
"What is a good sort of man, Miss Faith?"
The old horse was walking quietly along the sandy road, and the smell of the salt water was becoming pleasantly perceptible.
"I suppose I mean by it," said Faith thoughtfully, "a man who is not very good, but who is on the good side of things."
"I don't call that a good sort," said Mr. Linden,—then looking round with a little smile he said, "You ought to say 'sort o' good.'"
Faith looked serious and as if she felt half rebuked.
"But," she said, "you would not call that a bad sort?"
"Then you mean that he is in the same road with what you call the best people, only not so far advanced?"
"No," said Faith doubtfully, "I don't mean so much as that.—I don't think Mr. Simlins is in the same road with you."
"How many best roads are there to the same place? As for instance—does it matter which of these two I take to the shore?"
"Only one leads to the shore," said Faith.
"Yet they seem to lie near together at the outset. The same is true of the 'other shore.'"
Faith sat back in her place with a face exceedingly unlike a young lady who was going to a merry-making.
But they were near the shore now; not only the salt smell proclaimed it, but they could see the various bathing and other houses collected at the place, and the flag which floated high from the flag-staff, telling all who were not concerned that it was a gala day. A piece of ground immediately surrounding these buildings was fenced in; as they neared the gate, it was opened for them, and a tall farmer-looking man, whose straw hat shaded a sensible face, nodded as they passed.
"That is Mr. Simlins!" said Faith.
Mr. Simlins seemed for the present to be king of the castle. Horses there were, and wagons, standing here and there, and one or two oldish faces looked out from the windows of one long shanty; but the rest of the birds had flown—into the water! It was the time of low tide, and the long strips of rippling water which lay one beyond the other, were separated by sand banks nearly as long. In these little tide lakes were the bathers,—the more timid near shore, taking almost a sand bath; the more adventurous going further and further out, till the last party bathed beyond the last sand bank. Not dressed in the latest Cape May fashion, nor the latest fashion of any kind; for each had brought some dress too old to be hurt with salt water. Calico frocks, of every hue and pattern,—caps, hand kerchiefs, sun-bonnets,—gave additional force to the cries and shouts and screams which were wafted inshore.
But when they began to come in!—and when the bathing dresses were hung on the fence to dry!—and when mermaid visions appeared at the windows!—who shall describe the scene then? Over all, a blue smoke now began to curl and float, rising from the stove-pipe of the eating-house.
Mr. Linden had driven up to one of the fence posts, and fastening his horse stood a while watching the show, till the bathers began to draw in from the water. Then helped the ladies out.
"Which of these baskets contains my tea, Miss Faith?" he said. "I feel a particular interest in that basket."
"Perhaps your tea is in some other basket," said Faith; "but both of these must come into the eating-house. O, thank you, Mr. Linden!"
The eating-house was a long shanty, built for the express purpose of feasting picnic and other parties. At one end of it, within the house, was a well of excellent water; at the other end a door opened into a cooking-house, which held a stove; and through the length of the apartment a narrow table of boards was erected, ready to be covered with any description and any succession of table-cloths. In this room Mr. Linden with Faith's help deposited her baskets; while Miss Danforth looked on. At the door of the shanty coming out they met Mr. Simlins. Faith made the introductions.
"Happy to have your acquaintance," said Mr. Simlins. "This is a piece of Pattaquasset, sir, that we all of us rather cord'ally like. You haven't seen it before?"
"Yes, I don't wonder you like it," said Mr. Linden. "The sea-shore is no novelty to me, sir—such a shore party is."
"I hope you'll enjoy it, as the rest of us do. We all do as we like, Mr. Linden—I hope you'll use the grounds as your own. We have the flag flying, sir, and it ratifies liberty to all who amuse themselves under it."
Mr. Linden looked up at the stars and stripes, with an acknowledging smile for the benefits thereby conferred.
"Faith! Faith Derrick!" called out half a dozen mermaids from the bathing house; and Faith was obliged to go,—while her companions walked up the green slope, and entered into a deep discussion of the crops and the weather.
A while after, when Faith was busy about the supper table—twenty young voices chiming around her, another voice that she did not know spoke close at her elbow.
"Miss Faith—I am Reuben Taylor. Mr. Linden told me to come to you and make myself useful. Is there any thing I can do?—would you like some round clams?—Father's out there in the boat."
The earnest eyes said how gladly he would do 'any thing.'
"Who is your father?" said Faith, a little surprised.
"My father's a fisherman."
"The very thing!" said Faith—"if you'll help me roast 'em, Reuben. I guess nobody else'll want to do it, but I'd just as lieve. Can you have 'em here quickly? and I'll see and have the stove ready."
"O I'll fetch 'em—and roast 'em too, Miss Faith. I'm used to it," he added, with a half bashful half admiring glance at her face.
Faith had the fire ready by the time Reuben returned with the clams. The kettle was on to boil, and nothing else was wanted of the fire, as it happened, by anybody; least of all to roast clams, that necessarily making a kitchen prisoner of the roaster; so Faith and her new coadjutor had the field—i.e. the cooking house—all to themselves. Miss Danforth was to leave Pattaquasset in a day or two, and was busy talking to everybody. Readily the clams opened their shells on the hot stove-top; savourily the odour of steaming clam juice spread itself abroad; but Faith and Reuben were 'in' for it, and nobody else cared to be in.
So when Miss Cecilia Deacon had finished her toilet, which was somewhat of the longest, as it had been one of the latest, she found nobody but her brother to apply to on the score of her hostess duties.
"Sam!" said the young lady pinching her brother's arm,—"I haven't been introduced to Mr. Linden."
"He'll keep," was the encouraging reply.
"Yes, but supper won't. See, Sam!—I haven't been introduced to him, and I must."
The Squire nodded his head politely, and began to whistle.
"Come!—you Sam—you've got to, and in a hurry. I can't find Faith, or I'd make her."
"Well—I can't find him," said the Squire pettishly. "I haven't got neither of 'em in my pocket—nor the crown of my hat," he added, taking off that useful article of dress for the express purpose of looking into it. "My deliberate judgment is to have supper."
"Don't be a goose, Sam! What's the use of asking him, if you didn't mean to conduct yourself?"
"Didn't ask him."
"I didn't hear anybody," was the Squire's reply.
"Don't you mean to introduce me, Sam Deacon?" said his sister in a tone which was rather over the verge of patience.
"Jem Williams!" said the Squire, calling up a spruce embodiment of blue cloth, brass buttons, and pink cravat,—"I say! here's Cilly off the hooks to get hold of the new teacher. Whereabouts do you s'pose he is?"
"Really Squire!" said Jem Williams, with a silly little laugh, "I couldn't testify! Reckon he knows Miss Cilly 'd keep hold on him ef she got a chance!"
"Sha'n't speak to you in a month, Jem!" said the lady with a toss of her head and some heightening of the really pretty colour in her cheeks. "You may fix it as you've a mind to, among you, and let anybody that likes bring him in to supper! I'm going in, out of the way, myself."
Whither she went, on the spur, as good as her word; nor shewed her pretty face again outside.
Meanwhile Reuben and Faith had worked on through their basket of clams, and now the last were sputtering on the stove. The work had been done almost in silence, for though the excitement now and then made Reuben break into a low whistle of some tune or other, he always checked himself the next moment with a very apologetic look. For the rest, if he had not done all the work himself, it certainly was not his fault. Now, watching quietly the opening shells of that last dozen of clams, Reuben remarked,
"I hope Mr. Linden won't forget about supper!"
"Why what about it?" said Faith. "Why should he forget? or what if he does?"
The last sentence seemed to puzzle Reuben.
"I don't know, ma'am," he said,—"it's better before everybody eats it up."
"Who's going to eat it up?" said Faith. "Where is he?"
"He went down on the sands with me," said Reuben, "but he didn't come up again. Maybe he has now. He liked it down there, real well."
Faith went to the shutter window and flung it open, and looked to see whether or no the missing gentleman had returned to the shore. It was a fair view that lay spread before her. The low beams of the sun gave a cool afternoon look to everything; the sloop sails shone and gleamed in the distance; down by the muscle rocks one little boat lay rocking on the advancing tide, which was fast covering the sand banks and connecting the strips of water; and the freshening breeze curled the little waves as they came dancing in, and brought a low sweet murmur to the shore. One or two gulls sailed floatingly about, and a brown mink—perceiving that the company had retreated to higher ground—came out and aired himself on one of the rocks.
But Faith saw none of these things,—for in swinging open her shutter (which the wind caught and clapped up against the house) she so nearly swung it against Mr. Linden that her first look was a startled one.
"Miss Faith!" he said, turning round, "what can you possibly be about!"
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Linden!"—said Faith.
"Is that all you are about?"
"You were anxious about your supper, Mr. Linden—Are you ready for it?"
"Much more ready than anxious, Miss Faith."
"How do you like the shore to-day?" said Faith, dropping her voice, and giving a glance of her eye to the fair, cool sunlight colours on the water and shore and shipping—fresh as the very sea-breeze itself, and glittering as the water's thousand mirrors could make them.
He turned and looked again, drawing in the breeze with a deep breath that more than answered her question.
"How do you like this?" he said, handing her through the window a little miniature tree of red sea-weed. Then, while she examined it, he repeated,—
"'When descends on the Atlantic The gigantic Storm-wind of the equinox, Landward in his wrath he scourges The toiling surges, Laden with sea-weed from the rocks;
"'From Bermuda's reefs; from edges Of sunken ledges, In some far-off, bright Azore; From Bahama, and the dashing, Silver-flashing Surges of San Salvador;
"'From the tumbling surf that buries The Orkneyan skerries, Answering the hoarse Hebrides; And from wrecks of ships, and drifting Spars, uplifting On the desolate, rainy seas;—
"'Ever drifting, drifting, drifting On the shifting Currents of the restless main; Till in shelter d coves, and reaches Of sandy beaches, All have found repose again.'"
Faith's eye was upon the sprig of sea-weed while these verses were repeating,—then she looked up at the speaker with an intenseness in which oddly mingled some strong feeling of sorrow or regret.
"It's beautiful!"—she said,—"beautiful!—both the one and the other. But there are a great many things there I don't understand,"—she added once more with a smile. "If there was time—but there isn't.—Mr. Linden, Reuben and I have been roasting clams."
"Yes, Miss Faith," he said answering the smile and stepping nearer the window. "So one of my senses informed me. Do you know what that is in your hand?"
"It's sea-weed, isn't it?"
"Yes. And moreover—Miss Faith, that is part of your marine Flora. Now what about the clams?"
"My what?" said Faith. "First tell me, please, what you said."
"Your marine Flora."
"What is that?"
"The particular department of life in the sea, of which this is a specimen."
Faith looked puzzled, and amused.
"You don't mean to enlighten me more than you can help," she said. "But why do you call it Flora? you used that word before. And oh Mr. Linden—You can't tell me now, for supper's all ready."
His eyes looked amused too, and laying a clover head on the window, he said,
"That is part of your land Flora,"—then pushed the shutter to rather quick, but softly; and Faith heard the reason thereof as follows.
"Wal sir—ef this be you, I've looked all over for you."
"How was it that you overlooked me then, sir?" was Mr. Linden's reply.
"Don't jes know," laughed Jem Williams,—"but Miss Cilly Deacon wants you the worst kind."
"And where shall I go to receive her commands?" said Mr. Linden.
Faith heard their retreating steps, and turning to take off her apron saw the dish of hot clams still on the stove, and that Reuben had removed himself outside the door, quite beyond the conversation but not beyond call. He stood looking thoughtfully out towards the muscle rocks.
"Oh Reuben! there you are. Come!" said Faith; "you're going in with me. You're going to have some supper to-night, whoever else does. You open the door, and I'll take in this dish. You keep by me, Reuben."
"Please let me take the dish, then, Miss Faith,—I can open the door first."
But Faith had her own way, and followed by Reuben carried the clams into the supper room, where some of the company were already seated, and others stood waiting. Squire Deacon had not only given the desired introduction, but had (self-denyingly) placed Mr. Linden next Miss Cilly at the table,—where he stood.
"Here's a contribution," said Faith,—"if somebody 'll make a place for it. Thank you, Mr. Deacon. Now Reuben,—come here."
And refusing more than one offer of a place at the table, Faith made her way down to the 'well end' where there was room for two—at a remote distance from the tea and coffee.
What else was there not, upon that table!
"Won't you take a seat, Mr. Linden?" said Miss Cecilia. "I hope you've got room there. Jerushy, can't you shove down a little? I hope my coffee-pot's not disagreeable."
"I hope not!" said Mr. Linden, surveying the coffee-pot. "How long does it take to declare itself, Miss Deacon?"
"O it won't do anything, but spout coffee," said the young lady,—"if you don't mind that. Won't you be helped to what you like, Mr. Linden? I hope you have enjoyed our shore party this afternoon."
"Thank you"—said Mr. Linden, feeling perhaps that it was not their party he had enjoyed,—"there has been a combination of pleasant things. As far as I could judge the bathers enjoyed their particular expedition."
"O yes, it was delightful—invigorating. Mr. Simlins, I think Mr. Linden will like a piece of that cherry-pie with his clams. Do you take cheese, Mr. Linden? Is your coffee agreeable? There is the cold tongue by you, Jerushy.—I hope you like Pattaquasset."
"Ask Mr Linden whether Pattaquasset ain't a good place for handsome gals," said Mr. Simlins, as he handed over the piece of cherry-pie. "He knows by this time. I say there's a con-catenation of beauty now here this afternoon. If you look from the top to the bottom of the table, now, ain't it true, sir?"
Mr. Linden certainly looked from the top to the bottom of the table, and then setting the plate of cherry-pie as far from his clams as he could, he said,
"Miss Deacon—let me help you,—tell me where these cups belong, and I will convey them to their destination."
"I thought they'd shove down somehow," said the young lady. "Jerushy, do pass the coffee! They're for anybody down there who'll take coffee. Tea'll be along presently," added Miss Cecilia, raising her voice a little to give the information. "Don't you trouble yourself, Mr. Linden."
But Mr. Linden secured one, and carrying it down to Faith, requested her to stir it and taste it, and not give him the trouble of coming back with the sugar-bowl.
"What will you have?" he said while she obeyed his directions. "Here are all the pies that can be thought of except the musical one recorded in history."
"And so," said Faith with a laughing flash of her usually soft eye, "you immediately give me a desire for the one not here! It's like you, Mr. Linden. No, thank you—I'll have none of these. I believe Reuben has a desire for some of the clams he and I have roasted."
"I'm afraid I cannot get them away from Squire Deacon!" he said, "but I'll try."
The Squire however held fast to the dish, and rising from his place midway at the table, insisted upon taking it to Faith himself.
"Miss Faith," he said, "you have ruined my supper by sitting down here. My appetite has quite forsaken me," (whereupon Jem Williams observed, "that warn't strange.")—"and the worst is," added the Squire, "I can't maintain the constant supervision of your plate which my feelings prompt. I am too far off"—he concluded in a melancholy tone.
"I say, Squire!" said Jem Williams, "you bain't mor'n as far agin as he"—with a nod towards the upper end of the table.
Squire Deacon lowered, but for the present his feelings were restrained.
"Mr. Simlins," said Endecott, when he had resumed his seat, "I ask you—as one who knows the country—whereabouts does the concatenation you spoke of reach a climax?"
"The star you look at is always the brightest," said the farmer. "However, I think the clams is the best thing at table—or near the best," with a slight glance towards Squire Deacon and the dish at the 'well end.'"I've a legendary attachment to beauty, sir; my father married the three prettiest wives in the country."
"I say, Squire," said Jem Williams, "Mr. Simlins says you'r' hot."
"Hot?" said Squire Deacon, flushing up very much, and setting down the clams,—"that dish is. I'm as cool as all these cucumbers accumulated into a heap."
"Hope you'll stay where you are, then," said Mr. Simlins. "I'm cool too. Don't come near me, or we shall be in a state of concentration."
Mr. Linden remarked that that was an excellent point when reached.
"What point?" said Squire Deacon, who had returned to his seat with the strong impression that everybody was laughing at him, under the special guidance of the new teacher. "You know mighty little of the points round here, I tell you."
"The point of concentration is found in various places, sir," said Mr. Linden: "though I grant you it is rare."
"What do you know about Pattaquasset points?" repeated the Squire,—"or Pattaquasset people—or Pattaquasset water either, for that matter? Just you go down here when the tide's in—and afore you know where you are you'll find yourself wading round over your head."
"No sir—never," said Mr. Linden with great assurance.
"Why not? how're you goin' to help it?" said Squire Deacon.
"When I reach that point," said Mr. Linden, "I shall swim."
And Faith heard Reuben Taylor's smothered laugh of great gratification.
"Hope you haven't spoiled your own supper, Squire," said Mr. Simlins, "by your complacency in carrying about them hot clams. Have somethin' this way?"
While this question was getting its answer, Faith sat back in her chair and looked up and down the length of the table. It presented a distinguished 'after-supper' view, but the demands of the company had not yet ceased. Mr. Simlins was still discussing cheese and politics; Jem Williams was deep in cherry pie; plum cake was not out of favour with the ladies. The Squire was hard at work at his supper, which had been diversely and wickedly interrupted. He was making up for lost time now; while his sister, much disengaged, was bending her questions and smiles on Mr. Linden. Faith tried to see Mr. Linden, but she couldn't; he was leaning back from the table; and her eyes went out of doors. It was too fair and sweet there to be cooped up from it. The sun had just set. Faith could not see the water; the windows of the eating house looked landward; but the air which came in at them said where it had come from, and breathed the salt freshness of the sea into her face.
But presently every chair was pushed back. And now there was no more silence nor quiet The busy swarm poured out of the supper room; the men to lounge or tackle their horses, the women to gather up the bathing dresses from the fence, to look round, laugh, and go in again to pack up the dishes. It would seem that this last might be a work of time, each had to find her own through such a maze of confusion. There was a spoon of Miss Cecilia's providing, in a cup of Mrs. Derrick's, beside a plate of Mrs. David's, and before a half-eaten cherry pie which had been compounded in the distant home and by the fair fingers of Miss Jerusha Fax. However, most people know their own at least; and as on the present occasion nobody had any particular desire to meddle with what was not her own, the difficulty was got through with. The baskets and hampers were packed again and stowed in their respective wagons; and everybody was bidding good bye to everybody. Noisy thanks and praises fell liberally to the share of Miss Cecilia and her brother, and the afternoon was declared to have been "splendid."
For some weeks the little town of Pattaquasset held on its peaceful way as usual. Early summer passed into harvest, and harvest gave way to the first blush of autumn, and still the Mong flowed quietly along, and the kildeers sang fearlessly. For even tenor and happy spirits, the new teacher and his scholars were not unlike the smooth river and its feathered visiters. Whatever the boys were taught, they certainly learned to be happy; and Mr. Linden's popularity knew no bounds in his own domain. Neither did it end there: those fair members of the Pattaquasset society who thought early walks good for their health, felt their sleepy eyes well paid for keeping open when they met Mr. Linden. Those who were fond of evening expeditions, declared that his figure in the twilight was 'quite a picture,' and made them feel 'so safe,'—a great slander, by the way, on Pattaquasset. Mr. Simlins was his firm friend, and many another—known and unknown. Squire Deacon, I regret to say, was an exception.
Squire Deacon declared (confidentially) that he never had thought the new teacher fit for his business, no how. As far as he could hear, Mr. Linden had never taught school before, and in that case what could you expect? "Moreover," said the Squire, "I am creditably informed, that the first day he kep' school here, he begun by asking the boys who made them!—as if that had anything to do with geography. Of course it's nat'ral for a man to ask what he knows he can answer if the boys don't," added Squire Deacon in the way of kind explanation.
Whereupon, Jonathan Fax, the Squire's right hand man, requested to be informed, "why ef a man was poor didn't he dress as though he felt so,—and why ef he warn't rich did he act as though he war?" And thus by degrees, there was quite an opposition party in Pattaquasset—if that could be opposition which the object of it never opposed. By degrees too, the murmurs became more audible.
"Faith, child," said Mrs. Derrick in a cautions whisper, coining out where Faith sat on the porch, bathed in the late September light: "Faith, child, where's our Linden tree?" (Mrs. Derrick thought she had concealed her meaning now, if anybody did overhear.)
Faith started, more than so gentle a question seemed to call for.
"He's gone down to the post-office, mother."
Her mother stood still and thought.
"Child," she said, "I never thought we had any fools in our town before."
"I didn't know there were so many," said Faith. "What new, mother?"
"Child," she said, "you know more than I about some things—what do you s'pose fools can do? Isn't he a whole tree of knowledge?"
"There is no fear of him, mother!" Faith said with a smile, which if the subject of it valued any faith in the world but his own it would have gratified him to see. "They can't touch him. They may vex him."
Mrs. Derrick shook her head, softly, behind Faith's chair, then turned and went back into the house; not caring, as it seemed, to spread the vexation. Then after a little interval of bird music, the gate opened to admit Reuben Taylor. He held a bunch of water lilies—drooping their fair heads from his hand; his own head drooped a little too. Then he raised it and came firmly on.
"Is Mr. Linden home, Miss Faith?"
"No, Reuben—He will be directly, I guess. Do you want to see him?"
"No"—said Reuben, "I don' know as I do, more than usual. I have seen him all day. He wanted some pond lilies, Miss Faith—at least he told me to bring 'em. Maybe it was you wanted 'em."
"I'll give them to him, Reuben. What's the matter with you?"
But Reuben stood silent—perhaps from the difficulty of speaking,
"Miss Faith," he said at last, "is Squire Deacon all the trustees of our school, besides Mr. Somers?"
"No. Why? What about it?"
"He's doin' all the mischief he can," said Reuben concisely.
"What mischief has he done, Reuben?" said Faith, waiting upon the boy's answer with an anxious face.
"Well"—said Reuben, as if he could not put it in plain words,—"he's tryin' to turn folks heads—and some heads is easy turned."
"How did you know this?—and whose head has he turned, Reuben? Not yours?"
"They'd have to turn my heart, Miss Faith," was Reuben's subdued answer. Then he looked up and listened—hearing a step he well knew. Nor that alone, for a few low notes of a sweet hymn tune, seemed to say there were pleasant thoughts within reach of at least one person. Then Reuben broke forth.
"They can't keep him out of heaven, anyway!—nor me, neither," he added softly. But he ran down the steps and out of the gate, passing his teacher with only a bow; and once beyond the fence, Reuben's head dropped in his hands.
"Reuben! I want you!"—said Mr. Linden. But Reuben was out of sight. Faith stood between the house and the gate.
"Where is he? can't you make him hear? I want that boy!" she said.
"I can run after him—— with doubtful success."
"The foolish fellow brought these for you, Mr. Linden," said Faith, giving the lilies where they belonged.
"Complimentary, Miss Faith!" said Mr. Linden, taking the lilies and smelling them gravely.
"He is," said Faith, "and you speak as if I wasn't."
"Will it redeem my character—or Reuben's—if I bestow the lilies upon you, Miss Faith? I think that was their destination."
Faith took the lilies back again, with a slight smile and flash, and stood attentively turning them over for a while. Then suddenly said "Thank you."
"What did you want of Reuben Taylor?" said Mr. Linden. "Cannot I do as well?"
"I should be sorry to think you wanted, Mr. Linden, what I wanted to give him."
"That sounds terrific! But Reuben is under my jurisdiction—I don't allow anybody to scold him but myself. So deliver it to me, Miss Faith, and I will give it to him—duly pointed and sharpened up."
"No," said Faith smiling, "you couldn't do it so well as I. I wanted to say two words to him to put nonsense out of his head."
"Nonsense!" said Mr. Linden, looking grave,—"I am as anxious on that point as you can be. What nonsense has he got in his head?"
Faith hesitated, flushed and paled a little, and looked at her lilies.
"I don't know whether I ought to speak of it," she began, with much less than her usual composure of speech. "Perhaps it is not my business. Please forgive me if I speak wrong. But I half think you ought to know it."—
"I'll try to bear the knowledge," he said smiling—"if you will promise to speak the cabalistic two words that were to have such effect upon Reuben. So you want to put nonsense into my head, Miss Faith?"
"Perhaps you know it already?" said Faith. "At any rate I think I should feel better satisfied if you did know it. Mr. Linden," she said speaking low—"do you know that Squire Deacon has been trying to do you mischief?"
"Just suppose for a moment that you are one of my scholars, and give me a definition of mischief."
To judge by the unbent lines of Faith's brow, there was nothing very disagreeable to her in the supposition. Yet she had a look of care for the 'definition,' too.
"When a man is meaning to do harm, isn't he doing mischief?"
"Only to himself."
"But do you mean that one can't do harm to others in this world?"
"You said 'when a man is meaning to do harm.'"
"Ah," said Faith laughing, "I should want a great deal of teaching before I could give a definition that would suit you! Well then, isn't harm mischief?"
"I'm afraid I must yield that point."
"Then," said Faith simply, but very modestly,—"we come back to where we started from?"
"What shall we do there?" said he smiling.
"Nothing, perhaps," said Faith with the same simplicity. "I only thought it right to put you there, Mr. Linden."
"Thank you, Miss Faith. Now will you please pronounce over me the two words intended for Reuben?"
Faith laughed a little, but then said gravely, "Mr. Linden, I should be very sorry to think you needed them."
"It's impossible always to avoid being very sorry: I want them, at all events. Haven't you just been putting nonsense into my head?"
"Have I?" said Faith.
"Do you suppose there was any there before?"
"I—don't—think," said Faith, surveying his face,—"there is much there now. I guess you don't need the two words, Mr. Linden. I was going to tell Reuben he was a goose for thinking that that man could hurt you."
His face changed a little.
"Poor Reuben!" he said—then with the former look—"On the whole, perhaps it was well he did not come back. If you put those in water they will open their eyes to-morrow. Fresh water—not salt," he added as he followed her into the house,—"they are not part of the marine Flora."
Tea was ready, with its usual cheer of eatables and pleasant faces; not quite with its usual flow of talk. Mrs. Derrick certainly had something bewildering on her mind, for she even looked at her guest two or three times when he was looking at her. The pond lilies were alone in the twilight parlour.
That was probably the reason why Lucinda introduced Parson Somers into the tea-room, the parson happening to call at this identical time.
Parson Somers was always in a genial state of mind;—always, at least, whenever he came into Mrs. Derrick's parlour; by the testimony of numbers it was the same in many other parlours. He came in so now; gave a smile all round; and took an empty chair and place at the table like one who found it pleasant.
"Well, I declare, Mrs. Derrick," said Mr. Somers when he was seated,—"I don't think there's—a—a more cheerful room in Pattaquasset than this one; why, you always have everything agreeable here. A cup of tea, now—I didn't expect it"
"Why we always do have tea, Mr. Somers," said Mrs. Derrick, "but it don't seem strong to-night. Lucindy—take the teapot and make some fresh."
"These baked apples are strong—in numbers at least," said Mr. Linden, as he bestowed one upon Mr. Somers.
"Thank you!—it's all strong enough, Mrs. Derrick—thank you!—very good. And Mr. Linden—how are you—a—getting along with your juvenile charge? Confining work, sir,—isn't it?"
"Rather, sir—to the body."
"Not to the mind, eh? Well—I should have thought that to a gentleman like you it would prove—a—more deleterious to the mental faculties. But I suppose you find yourself rewarded by your pupils' improvement and—regard!"
"Yes sir—their regard is very precious to me," was the quiet reply.
"I should think so! Why there's that boy Reuben Taylor—strange father that boy has—fisherman;—I met that boy this evening, in the street, and he was crying,—down a little below here—he was going home. I asked him—ha—if Mr. Linden had been dealing hardly with him?—and I declare!—I didn't know but Reuben would have attacked me on the spot."
"Has Mr. Linden a character in the village for cruelty?" said Faith.
"I—I declare—not that I know of, Miss Faith. I should think it could not be deserved. That boy's attachment is certainly—ha—very warm. My dear Mrs. Derrick, how well Miss Faith is looking! She always looks well; but to-night—ha—the colour of her cheeks is—to be remarked."
"You will get a character for cruelty, Miss Faith," said Mr. Linden, "if you ask about my character before my face."
Faith looked up as if she would willingly have asked a question; but that being in present circumstances impossible, she merely uttered a quiet little 'no,' and went on with her tea and with a colour still further improved, A quiet little 'yes,' of about equal prominence, did not divert the attention of Mr. Somers from his own remarks.
"It's delightful to see—really," said that gentleman. "But Mr. Linden—ha—I am sorry to find that you haven't the good will of our neighbour, Squire Deacon. The Squire's a valuable man—very!—the Squire's a valuable man in the town. I am sorry. Do you know, Mr. Linden—ha—how it has happened?"
"Have you asked the Squire himself, sir?" said Mr. Linden.
"Why—no, sir, I haven't. I—ha—wanted to get at the truth of it, that I might, if possible, do something to heal the breach. Now you are doing a valuable work in Pattaquasset, sir—I should be sorry to see it interrupted—very—and I thought the best way would be to try to find out what the matter was, in order if possible to its being removed. And to get at the truth it is often best to hear both sides."
"But I have no side to tell, sir," said Mr. Linden—smiling in spite of himself. "I cannot deny that Squire Deacon seems to withhold his good will—I think it is for him to tell his reasons."
"Then you really have no idea what it can be about? and I may tell him so? Because that would be a great point."
"No sir, you may not tell him that."
"Then you have an idea what the matter is?" said Mr. Somers eagerly. "Then, sir, if you will be so good as to let me know what it is—I have no doubt—I entertain no doubt—we shall be able to smooth it all away, and have peace."
"You cannot prove one man's ideas by another man's," said Mr. Linden.
"Then you can give me no help?" said Mr. Somers regretfully. "But Mr. Linden—ha—it strikes me that it would be useful for me to know your view of the cause of offence—whatever it is—before I know his. One may correct the other."
"There has been no offence given sir," said Mr. Linden. "That the Squire has taken offence we both know,—why he has taken it—if I know—I have no right to tell you, Squire Deacon might justly complain of me if I did. It is from no disrespect to you, believe me."
"I say!" said Cindy coming into the room with a basket,—"here's Sam Stoutenburgh been and fetched some Stoutenburgh Sweetenings—for his teacher, he says. I'm free to confess," added Cindy as she set down the basket by Mr. Linden, "he said if he would like to do anythin' better with 'em, it would just be to shy 'em at Squire Deacon's head—so I guess they aint over and above ripe."
"Ha!—Very pleasant, certainly!—very gratifying," said Mr. Somers rising. "Mr. Linden—I have no more to say. You are a gentleman, sir, and understand these matters. I will see what I can do. Mrs. Derrick—I thank you for your tea, ma'am—I am sorry there should be anything disagreeable,—but I have no doubt it will all be set right—The Squire is a good-feeling man—I have no doubt of it. Miss Faith—ha!—why Mrs. Derrick this colour is too deep, it isn't natural. It looks feverish!"
"Do the Pattaquasset ladies use any rouge but their own sea breezes?" asked Mr. Linden.
"Ha! we do get the sea breezes here—pleasantly," answered Mr. Somers. "Good evening!"—
Mr. Linden accompanied the visiter to the little gate, and returning paced up and down the moonlit porch, followed only by his shadow.
While Mr. Somers was enjoying his cup of unexpected tea at Mrs. Derrick's, Squire Deacon and Miss Cilly had a sociable tete-a-tete over theirs; for Joe Deacon, who was in the full enjoyment of some fourteen years of boyhood, scarcely made a third in the conversation until his appetite was satisfied.
Conversation indeed hardly existed during the first portion of the meal. Miss Cilly poured out her tea and broke her biscuit with a certain prim sort of elegance which belonged to that young lady—as at least she believed. But sipping tea and nibbling biscuit went on in company with thoughts.